PERFORMERS: JASPER CARROTT

Carrottby Mark McKay (reprinted from LAUGH MAGAZINE #8, 1993)

 Caught in dual spotlights on an otherwise dark stage, Jasper Carrott looks like a startled jack rabbit dazzled by the headlights of an oncoming semi-trailer. Other descriptions have a similar zoological theme: a newspaper put him as a cross between a goldfish and a melancholy weasel’. However it is the very intimate and naturalistic raconteur style of the Birmingham-born comic that has led to his huge British success and enabled him to earn a living from comedy on three continents.

Born Bob Davies on March 14th 1945, he was nicknamed Jasper as a schoolboy and later added the “Carrott” on the spur of the moment when he was asked for his surname. His entry into show business was essentially as an agent, booking acts and opening folk clubs such as The Boggery in Solihull. Soon he was performing in the clubs in order to finance the agency, his early performances consisting mainly of songs (some by Tom Lehrer). With experience, he gradually cut down the number of songs as he built up a larger spoken repertoire.

Jasper’s act for the first thirteen years of his career was basically autobiographical. He told stories about his childhood and his previous jobs—working in a Birmingham store called ‘The Beehive’ and as a salesman of toothpaste for false teeth. A mad keen football fan, his audiences were treated to stories about his team, Birmingham City (“Lose some, draw some, that’s us”), and the dangers of being a heavily outnumbered supporter at a City v Manchester United ‘away’ game. A common thread running though all his monologues is the absence of jokes—Jasper has been heavily influenced by American stand-up comedians such as Shelley Berman, Bill Cosby and Woody Allen, who have all adopted a story-telling delivery style.

In 1975 DJM records commissioned a pilot record and Jasper spent most of his allowance recording a song called Funky Moped for the “A” side. This left him with little money for the “B” side, so it was filled with a risque send-up of the children’s television show, Magic Roundabout, which he had recorded at The Boggery two years earlier at a total cost of £6. Magic Roundabout was banned by the BBC (“The best thing that could ever happen to it”), and so it was the flip-side that sold 250,000 copies of the record, forcing it into third position on the charts. Jasper suddenly found himself a pop star, appearing on Top Of The Pops, and with his record listed in music magazines, leading to inevitable misunderstandings. In one rou­tine he describes how a town councillor booking pop groups for a local venue rang his manager to ask “Do Jasper Carrott want to play Scunthorpe Baths?”. His manager opportunistically replied, “They might.”

The single led to LP records of live concert pieces, and more impressive show venues, such as the Shakespeare Memorial Theatre in Stratford-upon-Avon. It was here where Michael Grade, Head of Programmes at London Weekend Television saw Jasper and offered him a pilot show. This led to a series of six half hour episodes of pure stand-up comedy, An Audience With Jasper Carrott (no relation to the later LWT An Audience With… celebrity audience series), which quickly used up nine years of material! Dressed in flared jeans and a denim jacket and with the ever-present but seldom-used acoustic guitar strapped to his person, Jasper entertained the studio audience with his adventures in America and delight in discovering his favourite new word, ‘zit’. LWT’s faith in this new talent was justified when Carrott won a Pye Award for ‘Outstanding New Personality’.

The following year saw Jasper (and LW1) taking a risk in televising his show live from the Theatre Royal, Drury Lane. Entitled The Unrecorded Jasper Carrott, the star proved to everyone that the performance was going out live by changing television channels from on stage, showing the vociferous audience snippets from the rival programs on BBC1 and BBC2, and giving away the endings in case anyone at home was tempted to switch over. One highlight of the show was Jasper’s demonstration of the audio quality of the microphones found in working men’s clubs. At the end of this routine, the foam rubber mike hood had to be detached and wrung out.

The next television exploits took Jasper across the waters and allowed him to dabble in ad-lib shoot-on-the-run comedy. First up was a documentary made in America, which included a memorable conversation with a fast food joint’s talking sign. Next, together with Terry Molloy and Bernard Latham, the story of three yobbos on holiday in the Costa del Sol, Spain was filmed on location. This incorporated a ‘Candid Camera’ approach, whereby real holidaymakers were secretly filmed in set-up situations. Most turned out to be incredibly obliging, even paying for the actors’ drinks on demand! Back on more familiar ground both geographically and professionally, came Beat The Carrott, a stage show from the London Palladium. The introductory routine incorporated some spoofs on contemporary television ads, an idea later included in his BBC television shows.

The first of these was Carrott’s Lib, which also marked a turning point in the Carrott career. He began to write with a team and came up with monologues about things that irritate him (The Sun newspaper and Reliant Robin three-wheeled cars are high on the list) or that he finds incongruous (“Why don’t they make aeroplanes out of the same material they make black boxes out of?”). There was also plenty of topicality, possible due to the live transmissions, and a few television tricks—the studio audience was encouraged to laugh heartily as soon as they were on air so that viewers at home would think they’d missed some-thing.

After a couple of years of Carrott’s Lib, Jasper thought he was ready to have a stab at America, but he decided to go over there with no pre-publicity or strings pulled, and work his way from the bottom up. So it was that he found himself performing at ‘open mike nights’ in front of thirty-three people and ‘dying the death’ at 1:45ambefore an uninterested crowd of seventeen. However, with perseverance, he was soon booked as the leading act at clubs up and down the West Coast. Jasper found the visit
very worthwhile—it proved to him that he could earn a living as a comic in America and he learnt a lot about the sort of material that goes down well there, but he didn’t find the back-to-basics comedy club touring particularly appealing. Meanwhile, the public back home benefited from his experiences with commercial souvenirs of the trip: an LP record of his most successful routines recorded at the Great American Music Hall, San Francisco was released by Rhino, and a special was made for British TV, including stand-up from Santa Monica’s Mayfair Theatre.

Back in England, Jasper continued to diversify his talents. He made his stage play debut in The Nerd, and went to Mauritius for the filming of his first movie Jane And The Lost City in which he plays a sadistic Nazi. He brought out a scrapbook and later a novel (a farce centred around an ownership battle for a large London department store) and encouraged burgeoning talent, assisting Phil Cool with the writing for his TV series, and giving Stephen Punt and Hugh Dennis their own regular spot in his new live Saturday night series, Carrott Confidential. The three series featured plenty more Carrott monologues, ‘Carrott Report’ features, topical news items and mock advertisements. The fascination with ads led to a show entirely devoted to the most interesting ones from around the world with a few Carrott parodies thrown in. Jasper presented the show, making his entrance from inside a giant fridge.

The 1990s began for Jasper with his first entirely pre-recorded TV series, Canned Carrott, which featured a spoof ad break in the middle of the show, an idea previously used in The Goodies. New features included the weekly adventures of Wiggy, an inept simpleton who appeared in short silent training films in different situations: as best man at a wedding, baking a birthday cake or as a photographer. Carrott’s golfing mate, Robert Powell, who has starred in Jesus Of Nazarethand Hannay, played David Briggs to Jasper’s Bob Louis in a segment called The Detectives. The two appeared as incredibly street-unwise plain clothes policemen hopelessly baffled by the slang thrown at them by their boss and the criminal fraternity. Jasper thought introducing this mini-series was a risk, but it was obviously one that paid off, as Louis and Briggs soon began their own series of half hour episodes.

Jasper Carrott now appears as a mellowed, middle-aged and balding (or ‘follicly challenged’ as he prefers) star, who has been performing for almost forty years. Happily, he is still as funny as he has ever been but to bigger audiences, filling the Albert Hall or the Theatre Royal, Drury Lane. It was at the latter where he walked on stage towards the end of 1992 to announce that the Prince and Princess of Wales were in the audience. Turning to stage right he bowed reverently: “Good evening, sir”. Straightening up, he turned and bowed to stage left: “Good evening, madam”. A kiss goodbye to a knighthood perhaps, but another crowd-winner from Birmingham’s famous son.

DISCOGRAPHY

Funky Moped/Magic Roundabout
DJM DJS 388 (7” single) (June 1975)

Jasper Carrott Rabbitts On And On And On…
DJM DJLPS 462 (LP) DJH 40462 (cassette) (1975)
Introduction
Spaghetti Junction
The Boggery
Sex Supermarket
In Concert
Local Radio
B.B.C. Medical
Magic Roundabout
Jersey
Waggy’s Testimonial
Learner Driver
Tribute To Eric Idle My Idol

Bickenhill Rovers Skin’ead Supporters Song/Car Insurance
DJM DJS 649 (7” single) (March 1976)

Carrott In Notts
DJM DJF 20482 (LP) DJH 40482 (cassette) (October 1976)
Give Me An “F”…
Top Of The Pops
My Cottage
New Faces
Now All Join In …
Bastity Chelt
Mal’s Shirt
Wor Malcolm
Radio Adverts
My Mate Jake
Bantam Cock
Football News
European Cup
Cup Final 76
I’m A Goalie You Know
What Sa Teem?
The Complete C & W
Dem Blues
Blue Goldfish
French 0 Level
Hava Nagila

12 Days Of Christmas/Local Radio Promotion
DJM DJS 10815 (7” single) (December 1977)

A Pain In The Arm
DJM DJF 20518 (LP) DJH 40518 (cassette) (January 1978)
Introduction
Hangman
Getting Here
The Football Match
Local Radio Promotion
Hari Krishna
America
Zits
Number Plate
The Bus Trip
Car Insurance
Twelve Days Of Christmas

The Best Of Jasper Carrott
DJM DJF 20549 (LP) DJH 40549 (cassette) (1978)
Bastity Chelt
Jersey
Football Match
Zits
America
Number Plates
Bus Trip
Car Insurance
Magic Roundabout

The Unrecorded Jasper Carrott
DJM DJF 20560 (LP) DJH 40560 (cassette) (October 1979)
Intro
Muppets
Gleemodent
Zits
The Mole
Microphones
Punk Rock
Local Radio Presenters
The Nutter On The Bus
Mug Job
Explosive Gases

Fun At One
BBC REB 371 (LP) ZCF 371 (cassette) (1979)
Contains one track from Jasper: Car Insurance

Made In Australia
DJM (Australia) L 375 16 (LP) (early 1980)
Arrival
Pantomime
Car Insurance
Bantom Cock
Day Trip To Bangor
Hangman
Pets
Driving A Truck
Twelve Days Of Christmas

12 Days Of Christmas/Car Insurance
DJM (Australia) K-8144 (7” single) (1980)

Beat The Carrott
DJM DJF 20575(LP) DJH 40575(cassette) (September 1981)
Intro
Television
Scunthorpe Baths
Acne
Australian Sticky Tape
Car Insurance (Australian Style)
Driving Lesson
Pets
Truck Driving
Buffer
Day Trip To Blackpool

The Secret Policeman’s Other Ball
Island HAHA 6003 (LP) CHACHA 6003 (cassette) (November 1981)
Original cast album of the Amnesty International Gala at the Theatre Royal, Drury Lane on September 9, 10, 11 and 12 1981. Jasper appears on one track: Australian Motor Insurance Claims

We Are Most Amused
Ronco RTD 2067 (Double LP) 4C-RTD 2067 (Double cassette) (1981)
Contains one track from Jasper: The Nutter On The Bus

Carrott’s Lib
DJM DJF 20580 (LP) DJH 40580 (cassette) (November 1982)
Tony Benn
Nuclear Aftermath
Think Tank
Black Box
Snow
Dieting
Getting Old
Motor Show
Test Tube Parents
Changing Tyres

The Stun (Carroll Tells All)
DJM DJF 20582 (LP) DJH 40582 (cassette) (October 1983)
Holidays
Hairloss
Child Psychologist
Computer Games
Sport
Virgin Voter
Hong Kong

Noel Edmonds Presents ‘Listen With Mother’
BBC REC 525 (LP) (1984)
Jasper reads ‘Gary the Greatest’ by Margaret Joy, from the Noel Edmonds Show on BBC Radio 1 during winter 1982.

Jasper Carrott In America
Rhino (US) RNLP 817 (LP) (November 1985)
Gambling
Space Invaders
Rent-A-Wreck
Speeding
Fast Food Invasion
Nuclear Warning
Door Callers
TV
Crampes
Taxis
Snow
Car Insurance

Cosmic Carrott
CBS Portrait LAUGH 1 (LP) (1986)
The 60’s
Cowards
Alternatives
Plumbers
Mechanics
Boy Scouts
Store Detectives
Cruise Missiles
More Cars
Fear
Animals
Xmas Time

Condensed Classics
Chrysalis CCD 30 (Compact Disc) ZDD3O (Double Cassette) (1991)
The Mole
Magic Roundabout
Car Insurance
Nutter On The Bus
Truck Drivers
America
Zits
Number Plates
Football
The Driving Lesson
Scunthorpe Baths
Tribute To Eric My Idol
Explosive Gases
the double cassette contains bonus tracks:
Biffer
Jersey

The Complete Secret Policeman’s Other Ball
Island ESDMC 152 (Double cassette) ESDCD 152 (Double Compact Disc) (October 1991)
Reissue of the original LP contents plus a second collection of previously unreleased material.
Jasper appears on two tracks:
Australian Motor Insurance Claims
Confessions Of A Van Driver

24 Carrott Gold
EMI TC EMC 3655 (cassette)
Taken from his concert at Stratford Upon Avon in June 1990

Canned Carrott – For The Record
EMI 8 31146 2 (Double compact disc) (1994)
Dangerous Sports
Cars
Holidays
Jasper At 45
Baggage Handlers
Vasectomy
Magazines
Animals And Dogs
Medicine
Cons
Entertainment
Parties
Facts & Figures
Royalty
Why Is It?
House Selling

Back To The Front – volume 1
Celador/Sound Entertainment TLCD 04 (compact disc) (2000)
highlights from the B.B.C. TV series
Young People
Old People
Husbands And Wives
Wig Wearers
Childbirth

Back To The Front – volume 2
Celador/Sound Entertainment TLCD 05 (compact disc) (2000)
highlights from the B.B.C. TV series
Scuba Diving
The World’s Hottest Curry
Bali

One Jasper Carrott
Celador/Sound Entertainment TLCD ? (compact disc) (200?)

24 Carrott Gold – The Best Of Jasper Carrott
Celador/Sound Entertainment TLCD 58 (Double compact disc) (2004)
Recorded at the National Indoor Arena, Birmingham in 2004

BIBLIOGRAPHY

A Little Zit On The Side
by Jasper Carrott (Arrow paperback, 1979)

Sweet And Sour Labrador
by Jasper Carrott (Arrow paperback 1982)

Carrott Roots
by Jasper Carrott (Arrow paperback 1986)

Shop! or A Store Is Born
by Jasper Carrott (Arrow paperback 1988)

Jasper And Me
by John Starkey (Etsiketsi Books c.1993)

TELEVISION

A Half Hour Mislaid With Jasper Carrott
BBC (Midlands) September 17 1976

An Audience With Jasper Carrott
LWT January 6 to March 3 1978 (not Jan 13 or Feb 3) (6 x 30 min).

The Unrecorded Jasper Carrott
LWT February 18 1979 (60 min)

Jasper Carrott In America (aka Carrott Gets Rowdie) 
LWT November 2 1979 (60 min)

Carrott Del Sol
LWT January 2 1981 (60 min)

Beat The Carrott
LWT September 18 1981 (60 min)

Carrott’s Lib
Series 1: BBC1 October 2 to November 13 1982 (7 x 45 min)
Special: BBC1 June 9 1983 (40 min)
Series 2: BBC1 October 22 to December 10 1983 (8 x 40 min).
Special: BBC1 December 30 1983 (45 min)

American Carrott
CH4 January 19 1985 (65 min)

Carrott Confidential
Series 1: BBC1 January 3 to February 21 1987 (8 x 35 min)
Special: BBC2 June 11 1987 (30 min)
Series 2: BBC1 January 16 to March 5 1988 (8 x 35 min)
Series 3: BBC1 February 4 to March 25 1989 (8 x 35 min)

Stand-Up America
BBC1 July 7 to August 11 1987 (6 x 35 min)

Carrott’s Commercial Breakdown
BBC1 December 29 1989

Canned Carrott
Series 1: BBC1 October 3 to November 7 1990 (6 x 30 min)
Series 2: BBC1 November 21 1991 to January 2 1992 (not Dec 26) (6 x 30 min)

24 Carrott Gold
BBC1 December 28 1990 (50 min)

Carrott’s Commercial Breakdown 2
BBC1 December 27 1991

One Jasper Carrott
BBC1 December 28 1992 (50 min)

The Detectives
Series 1: BBC1 January 27 to March 3 1993 (6 x 30 min)
What The Butler Saw/Hostage/Teed Off/Acting Constables/Studs/Strangers In Paradise
Series 2: BBC1 March 2 to April 6 1994 (6 x 30 min)
Collared/Witness/ Never Without Protection/Dutch Cops/Sparring Partners/Rear Window
Series 3: BBC1 January 9 to February 13 1995 (6 x 30 min)
D.C. Of Love/Flash/Art Attack/On Thin Ice/Between A Rock And A Hard Place/Twitchers
Series 4: BBC1 February 15 to March 14 1996 (5 x 30 min)
The Great Escaper/Fur Coat, No Knickers/Back To Class/Sacked/The Wembley Stadium Mystery
Series 5: BBC1 January 14 to February 18 1997 (6 x 30 min)
Special Branch/Cardiac Arrest/The Beast Of Hackney Marshes/The Curse Of The Comanches/Best Man/Mine’s A Large One
Special: BBC1 December 28 1997 (50 min)
Go West, Old Man

Carrott-U-Like
BBC1 December 27 1994 (50 min)

The Jasper Carrott Trial
BBC1 May 20 to June 26 1997 (6 x 30 min)

Jasper Carrott – Back To The Front
BBC1 February 24 to March 31 1999 (6 x 30 min)

All About Me
BBC1 March 8 to April 12 2002 (6 x 30 min)

RADIO

Carrott’s Crash Course In Cable Car Comics
BBC R4 November 22 and 29 1986
with Jasper Carrott

The Jasper Carrott Trial
Series 1: BBC R2 June 6 to July 18 1996
Series 2: BBC R2 July 24 to August 28 1997
with Jasper Carrott, Enn Reitel, Jan Ravens

Carrott’s Comedy Choice
Series 1: R2 September 28 to November 16 1996
Series 2: R2 May 10 to June 7 1997
hosted by Jasper Carrott

Talking Comedy
BBC R2 June 22 2002

FILM

Jane And The Lost City (1988)
Adventures of the Daily Mirror comic strip heroine who does her bit to guarantee a British victory in the second world war.
Stars Kirsten Hughes, Sam Jones, Elsa O’Toole, Maud Adams, Jasper Carrott, Robin Bailey, Graham Stark, John Rapley, Ian Roberts.

VIDEOS

Just A Carrott
Weekend Video
Contains edited versions of two LWT specials:
The Unrecorded Jasper Carrott & Beat The Carrott

Jasper Carrott Live
Rank Video V1031
Introduction/Cubes/The Football Match/Bastity Chelt/Local Radio/BBC Medical/America/Number Plates/The 12 Days Of
Christmas/Exploding Gases

American Carrott
Castle Vision CVI 1043
From the Channel 4 TV special

24 Carrott Gold
Telstar TVE 6002
Live performance

Carrott’s Commercial Breakdown
Telstar TVE 6005
From the BBC TV special

Carrott’s Commercial Breakdown 2
Telstar
From the BBC TV special

Canned Carrott—All The Best Bits
Pickwick
From the BBC TV series

Canned Carrott—More of the Best Bits
Pickwick
More items from the BBC TV series

One Jasper Carrott
Pickwick
From the BBC TV special

DVD

Beat the Carrott
Netork DVD

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